Historical aspects of ultrasound in medicine

The first written document dealing with the use of waves in spatial orientation dates back to 1794, when Lazaro Spallanzani (“Opus coli di fisica”), analyzed the basic mechanisms of spatial orientation of the bats, proposing other mechanisms of spatial orientation than the visual – ophthalmic system.

It was in 1880 when Galton created and produced the apparatus that was able to produce the sound waves of the frequency of 40.000 Hz. The same year, the brothers Jacques et Pierre Curie noted that the electricity is created in the crystal of quartz under mechanical vibrating. This phenomenon was described as the piezoelectric effect. The Curie brothers also discovered the inverse piezoelectric effect, the ability of the liquid crystal to produce electricity under the vibrations produced by the ultrasound wave.

It was in 1912 that Richardson invented the echo locator based on the idea of ultrasound used for navigation and detection of objects in the water. In 1929, Sokolov proposed the theory of sound transmission and in the early thirties, the ultrasound was used to detect the defects in metal constructions.

The Dussig brothers tried to implement the ultrasound in order to visualise the cerebral chambers in 1937, but their attempt ended with no results since the waves were not able to penetrate the osseous structures. Ludwig and Stuthers used the pulse ultrasound wave to present the gallbladder stones. Ian Donald introduced the ultrasound in diagnostic and medicine in 1956, when he used the one-dimensional A-mode (amplitude mode) to measure the parietal diameter of the fetal head. Two years later, Donald and Brown presented the ultrasound image of the female genital tumour. Brown invented the so-called “two-dimensional compound scanner”, which enabled the examiner to visualise the density of the tissue, which is often referred to as the turning point in the application of ultrasound in medicine. The commercial use of ultrasound devices dates back to 1963 when the B mode (“brightness mode”) devices were constructed, enabling the examiner to visualise the two-dimensional image. In the mid-seventies, the “grey scale” was introduced (Kossoff, Garrett) leading to the introduction of the real-time ultrasound scanners. A decade later the Doppler Effect served as the basis for the construction of the device that enabled the visualisation of blood circulation.

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Article information

rID: 8660
Section: Physics
Synonyms or Alternate Spellings:
  • History of ultrasound
  • Ultrasound history

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